Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen": Guest Post and Giveaway with Sally Smith O'Rourke

Yours Affectionately tour

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen
Was Mr. Darcy real? Is time travel really possible? For pragmatic Manhattan artist Eliza Knight the answer to both questions is absolutely, Yes! And Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Farms, Virginia is the reason why!
His tale of love and romance in Regency England leaves Eliza in no doubt that Fitz Darcy is the embodiment of Jane Austen’s legendary hero. And she’s falling in love with him. But can the man who loved the inimitable Jane Austen ever love average, ordinary Eliza Knight?
Eliza’s doubts grow, perhaps out of proportion, when things start to happen in the quiet hamlet of Chawton, England; events that could change everything. Will the beloved author become the wedge that divides Fitz and Eliza or the tie that binds them?
 
Praise for Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen
O’Rourke creates a world that defies cynicism and demands suspension of disbelief – even in this age of doubt and hyper-realism. Sheer escapism at its best. Clever, charming and affectionate. ~Jocelyn Bury …the reader must tenaciously read on rather than put the book down to satisfy their hunger for the story to resolve, which it does in characteristically Jane Austen fashion. ~Erin Murdock
In Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen, author Sally Smith O’Rourke creates a compelling story that investigates what and who might have inspired Jane Austen. While the story line is certainly far-fetched, it is a truly unique idea, one that captivated this reader until the very last page. ~Meg Massey 

Audio Book Excerpt
The audio book with Kendra Hoffman’s wonderful narration is now available at Audible.com, Amazon and iTunes.

 Guest Post by Sally Smith O'Rourke
In spite of the fact that my name alone appears on the cover, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was, in truth, very much a collaboration with my late husband F. Michael O’Rourke. Kelly, my step-daughter called us an awesome team and we were, in all respects; our life together was a true collaboration. The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was a true collaboration of Love. Many projects came out of that collaboration among them two feature films, a few television pilots and several books including Christmas at Sea Pines Cottage, The Maidenstone Lighthouse and, of course, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

The road to The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was rather circuitous and, I’m afraid, not particularly romantic even though Mike called it the ultimate valentine because it was brought to life by the love we had for each other.

Technically, I suppose that road began when I was fifteen years old and read Pride and Prejudice, enjoying it thoroughly. One Sunday afternoon a very disappointing film version of it was on television. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier were much too old to be playing the 20 year old Elizabeth and the 28 year old Darcy but changing the story was entirely unacceptable to my youthful psyche (and my adult psyche). It was my first taste of what Hollywood can and often does do to novels. After that I watched every version of the story but never found one worthy of the book. Then in 1995 the ultimate Pride and Prejudice was produced. A&E along with the BBC did the Andrew Davies/Simon Langton/Sue Britwistle mini-series, staring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. FINALLY a wonderful portrayal of the classic novel.

Moving on to late 1999, the health department recommended that Mike and I vacate our home because of toxic mold, requiring us to leave most of our belongings in the contaminated house. After a few months in a hotel it felt like we never talked or thought about anything but the mold and the pending law suit; our life had seemingly come to a screeching halt. In an attempt to, at the very least, not think about it all the time, we sat down and watched the six hour Pride and Prejudice; in its entirety. It worked; we stopped obsessing about the house and, in fact, the marathon inspired me to read all of Jane Austen’s books again.

For some reason I had never noticed that there is a theme in all her writings, maybe it was because I’d never read them one after the other but this time I did and found that she made every heroine strong, relatively independent and quite intelligent; not completely unusual in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries however in most fiction women were victims. What made Austen different was not only the strong women but the men who loved them for that strength. It made me want to know more about her, why in an era where women were basically chattel did she feel free enough to write such stories. After delving into her life by reading several biographies, I came to believe she wrote Elizabeth Bennet and the others, in large part, because her father and brothers were fairly open minded and that their support and strong belief in her talent was at the center of her success.

Another thing that struck me, particularly in Pride and Prejudice was Darcy’s ability to look at himself, be dissatisfied and make a concerted effort to reverse his attitudes because as he said after Elizabeth accepts his second proposal, You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." To me Darcy felt more like a modern man than a Regency aristocrat.

When Mike suggested that we start a new project by resurrecting a time travel story I had started some time before. I countered that rather than write about a twenty-first century woman who goes into the future we write about a twenty-first century man who falls back into the England of 1810 and becomes Jane Austen’s muse and perhaps one of the most quixotic heroes ever written; Fitzwilliam Darcy.

We considered many scenarios before settling on Darcy being the wealthy owner of a two hundred year old Virginia horse breeding estate, Pemberley Farms. The back story we created for his ancestors, was touched on when Eliza is presented to the guests at Darcy’s Rose Ball.

I know that many people consider love stories better if they end unhappily, if not tragically (A Walk to Remember; The Way We Were; Gone With The Wind) but I prefer a happy ending, therefore a modern woman had to be able to compete with Jane Austen. New York artist Eliza Knight does just that.

We discussed making Eliza a poor, struggling artist then decided that we didn’t want it to be a ‘Cinderella’ story; you know, rich guy falls for poor girl and they live happily ever after. So she became a relatively successful artist of fantasy drawings that are used on greeting cards, stationary as well as prints. That success allows her to buy an antique vanity and it is behind the vanity’s mirror that she discovers letters to and from Jane Austen and Fitzwilliam Darcy, triggering the story.

After completing the manuscript, we type-set, printed and hand bound copies to give as gifts to family and friends. It was received with spirited enthusiasm and Mike and I were proud of our nice little story. Then my world crashed, in November 2001, two weeks before his sixtieth birthday Mike died suddenly; we hadn’t gotten out of the house soon enough.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was published in 2006. The publisher didn’t want two names on the cover and preferred the one be mine since I would be doing the promotion. I regret not insisting that Mike’s name be used on the cover as a tribute to him. But regret serves no useful purpose and at least his work is being enjoyed by people all over the world.

I’ve always thought it odd that no journal or diary kept by Jane Austen has survived so I started what was going to be a fun little project, to create a journal that would be Jane’s perspective of spring 1810 when she met the American Darcy in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. At the end of one journal entry she writes, “I wonder what Mr. Darcy is doing at this moment”. I left off doing the journal and began writing just that and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen was born.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen reacquaint readers with 21st century American horseman  Fitzwilliam Darcy and his influence on the English novelist and her writings; at the same time delving into the complex nature of the man who became the embodiment of one of the most romantic characters in English literature.

The blossoming romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Eliza Knight, the modern-day woman who gave Darcy the letters proving that he did make a trip through time and met Jane Austen, is juxtaposed with Jane’s life as she copes with the subtle celebrity of being the ‘Lady’ who wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

In this year, the 200th publication anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is my little tribute to the author and her classic novel. Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen delves into the complex nature of the man who may well have been the inspiration for Mr. Darcy, arguably the most romantic character in English literature.

I’m blessed to have gotten several very positive reviews for what is in essence my first novel as a solo author. The reviews I particularly enjoy are the ones that say they felt like they were part of the story or at least watching from the other side of the room.

“I felt I was sitting by the fire listening to Aunt Jane telling a story. It was heaven.”
“I’m not a reader holding the book, I am a guest who has been warmly invited into the story.”
   


Author Sally Smith O'Rourke Sally Smith O’Rourke is a surgical scrub nurse at the City of Hope national cancer research hospital in Duarte, California and resides in the near-by Victorian village of Monrovia. With her late husband, author Michael O’Rourke (aka F.M. O’Rourke) Smith O’Rourke owned and operated a medical advertising company where she used her diverse talents to produce and co-write teaching films and videos. Working not only with major medical and surgical manufacturing companies but also network television. These endeavors ultimately led to a collaboration on two feature films (direct to video) and three published novels. 

The wife and husband writing team of Sally Smith and Michael O’Rourke, being long-time fans of Jane Austen, wrote The Man Who Loved Jane Austen released by Kensington Books in 2006. Kensington followed that very successful effort with The Maidenstone Lighthouse in 2007 and Christmas at Sea Pines Cottage in 2009, both also collaborative projects by Smith and O’Rourke. Published after her partner and spouse’s untimely death in 2001, the publisher chose not to use the names Michael O’Rourke and Sally Smith (as the manuscripts were presented), releasing all three books under Sally Smith O’Rourke. Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is Sally Smith O’Rourke’s first solo novel. 

Tour Giveaway 
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 6/27/13

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